Source: US State of New York
Releases Women from NDAs & Confidentiality Agreements
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James, as part of a class action lawsuit, has helped to secure approximately $19 million for women who experienced sexual misconduct and workplace harassment by convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein. The payments, if approved by the bankruptcy and district courts, resolve the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) February 2018 lawsuit against The Weinstein Company LLC, Harvey Weinstein, and Robert Weinstein, for maintaining a hostile work environment at the company, as well as a separately-filed putative class action lawsuit brought on behalf of women who were sexually harassed and assaulted by Harvey Weinstein.
The payments are part of an agreement that resolves the OAG’s lawsuit and the putative class action lawsuit, and is part of a larger global agreement proposed in the plan for liquidation under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code for The Weinstein Company and its parent holding company, The Weinstein Company Holdings LLC (together TWC).
The agreement ensures that women who experienced a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and gender-based discrimination while working at The Weinstein Company, as well as sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein, are entitled to obtain restitution, by creating a $18,875,000 victims’ compensation fund.
“Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Company failed their female employees. After all the harassment, threats, and discrimination, these survivors are finally receiving some justice,” said Attorney General James. “For more than two years, my office has fought tirelessly in the pursuit of justice for the women whose lives were upended by Harvey Weinstein. This agreement is a win for every woman who has experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, intimidation, or retaliation by her employer. I thank the brave women who came forward to share their stories with my office. I will forever carry their stories in my heart and never stop fighting for the right of every single person to be able to work harassment-free.”
As part of the agreement, the OAG has also ensured that women who had previously signed confidentiality, non-disclosure, or non-disparagement agreements with TWC or any of the former representatives of the company related to any sexual misconduct by Harvey Weinstein, will be released from those clauses and free to tell their stories without fear of retribution.
The agreement must be approved by the district court that is presiding over the putative class action, as well as the bankruptcy court that is presiding over TWC’s petition for relief and proposed plan under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. Upon approval, the court will provide information to women about how to participate in a confidential claims process.
Today’s agreement is the culmination of more than two years of investigation and litigation by the OAG. The investigation included interviews with numerous company employees, executives, and survivors of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct. The investigation also included an exhaustive review of hundreds of thousands of company records and emails.
As alleged in detail in the OAG’s February 2018 lawsuit, Harvey Weinstein, in his capacity as TWC’s co-owner and co-CEO, created a hostile work environment by repeatedly and persistently sexually harassing female employees, including frequently remarking on female employees’ physical appearances, berating female employees, and requiring female employees to perform work while he was naked or only partially dressed. Weinstein subjected female employees to demeaning work tasks as a condition of their employment, such as procuring his erectile dysfunction injections and cleaning up after his sexual encounters. He also demanded or forced female employees to engage in unwanted sexual contact as a quid pro quo for continued employment or career advancement. The lawsuit further alleged that Robert Weinstein and TWC aided and abetted these violations by failing to investigate complaints of misconduct and/or take appropriate action to stop Harvey Weinstein’s unlawful activities. Further, non-disclosure agreements were used to prohibit former employees from speaking about their experiences and to ensure the cover-up of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct for decades.
“Harvey Weinstein left a trail of trauma that was crushing for many women,” said Louisette Geiss, one of the driving forces behind the survivors’ work to hold Weinstein accountable and co-chair of the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee in the TWC bankruptcy proceedings. “We had aspirations for careers in a business we truly loved, and Weinstein took that dream from us and much more. I knew that I wasn’t alone, and by linking arms with survivors, we were able to fight for meaningful change in this groundbreaking case. Building the survivors’ fund was no easy feat. We endured a roller coaster of challenges but in the end, with support from our incredible legal team and the Attorney General’s Office, we persevered. This important act of solidarity allowed us to use our collective voice to help those who had been silenced and to give back to the many, many survivors who lost their careers and more. There is no amount of money that can make up for this injustice, but I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished today.”
“We fought a long and grueling battle in the courtroom,” said plaintiff Caitlin Dulany. “Harvey avoided accountability for decades, and it was a powerful moment for us to band together and demand justice. Knowing that we will help so many women who are long overdue for relief gives me hope that this settlement will continue to empower others to speak.”
The OAG thanks class counsel, including FeganScott LLC and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP (Hagens Berman) for working together to achieve this agreement.
“This settlement is truly a testament to the survivors, who not only faced their trauma head-on, but also bravely advocated on behalf of all of those who feared speaking out because of the threats to their reputation and their careers,” said Elizabeth A. Fegan, FeganScott’s founding partner and managing member. “The plaintiffs selflessly used their combined efforts to secure a fund, which will allow all survivors of Weinstein’s abuse to apply for meaningful, confidential relief. These women insisted their voices be heard and created a powerful example of how we can fight collectively for equitable justice. I thank Attorney General James for her partnership and unwavering commitment to this cause.”
“This settlement highlights the power of women acting together,” said Whitney K. Siehl of Hagens Berman. “Together with Attorney General James and the brilliant attorneys at the OAG, these women raised their voices to secure a fund for all Weinstein survivors.”
The Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office is committed to combating gender discrimination and sexual harassment faced by women across all industries. The Civil Rights Bureau encourages those who encounter such conduct to contact the office at 212-416-8250 or Civil.Rights@ag.ny.gov.
This case was handled by Senior Counsel Sandra Pullman, and Assistant Attorney General Louisa Irving, under the supervision of Civil Rights Deputy Bureau Chief Elena Goldstein and Bureau Chief Jessica Clarke. Special Bankruptcy Counsel Enid Stuart and Assistant Attorney General Louis Testa of the Litigation Bureau assisted in this matter. The Civil Rights Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.